Saturday, January 21, 2017

Star Trader Updates - Academy Brats .020.4

I sat at the table in the galley tapping out an irritated rhythm on the side of my plate with my fork. Moby had called everyone to supper over fifteen minutes ago. I was still sitting at the table alone.

“Ma-rye-a, where are our guests?”

There was an inordinately long pause before she answered. “In the vid room, Captain. You should come join us.”

She didn’t seem distressed in any way. If anything, my ship sounded distracted, which should have raised all kinds of flags for me. Ma-rye-a was always duty bound. I headed for the vid room.



“I got you this time,” Callen crowed, as the door slid open.

“Not a chance in hell!” Drake shot back.

All four of the kids were in their C-Chairs with the virtual gaming domes down. There was a space-scape projected on the wide screen and their chairs were rocking to simulate their speedsters’ action based on their controls. They were playing the latest version of Stellar Speedster – one of the many games Daniel uploaded for their entertainment. I am not a gamer, but I recognized this one immediately. It was the only game I played. I liked the challenge of racing through the star system, avoiding the built-in obstacles and traps to see how fast I could get from Point A to Point B. I raced against the game. They were obviously racing against each other.

They were concentrating so hard they were unaware I entered the room.

“SHIT!” Tiff shouted and her virtual doom shut down.

“Get pushed out?” I asked from my place leaning against the door jamb.

“Nah, the red dwarf went nova and I got caught in the shockwave.” She hit the button on her arm console and the dome lifted. “When’s dinner? I’m famished.”

Moby obviously did not see fit to interrupt their game. Another thing, that in retrospect, should have alerted me to an issue with the crew.

“It’s ready now.” I thumbed a hand at the other three. “How close are they to being finished?”

“They were all out ahead of me. Mims is giving the guys some serious competition.” Tiff hopped out of her chair and headed out past me. “I’d leave them here if I were you. They’ll get hungry eventually.” She headed on down the hall to the galley.

“Damn it, Drake! Move over…” I saw Mims hit her throttle just as her virtual dome shut down. “Drake!”

“Sorry, Mims.” Drake chuckled.

He’d pushed her out of the game. Now it was just between he and Callen. I tried to figure out which route they were taking, but without the virtual dome and the 3-D vision it provided, it was difficult to ascertain their location in the space-scape. It looked like they were dodging through the asteroid belt of the two sister moons, but the Dritex 9 nebula was close at hand too. The finish-line was on the other side of the nebula. As a player, it was your choice to risk the asteroid belt’s many projectiles or the solar winds of the nebula – either were a challenge.

“Dinner is ready,” I told Mims.

She hopped up, shot Drake a nasty look and then headed out to the galley. I continued to watch even though I didn’t know exactly where they were.

“You can do it, Callen,” Ma-rye-a unexpectedly shouted.

“Not a chance,” Sam crowed back. “You got it, Drake!”

“Hey!” Callen’s chair jerked and then settled back into a more stationary position.

“Eat my wash!” Drake taunted.

“Hold on, Callen,” Ma-rye-a encouraged.

Daniel had used that tactic on me once before. If you played with someone, rather than against the game, their ship could create a power wash that could throw your ship into a spin if you weren’t an experienced player.

“Ya, Callen, hold on tight…” Drake teased.

His chair rocked violently to the left and Callen’s virtual dome shut down, throwing him out of the game.

“You ASSHOLE!” Callen came out from under the dome ready to lay into Drake.

“Hey! Hey!” I stepped further into the room. “It’s just a game. Lighten up!”

Drake’s dome had shut down too. He pushed the button to lift it. “I can’t help it if I’m a better flyer than you.” He was so smug, I wanted to smack him.

“You’re not a better flyer,” Callen stormed past him and me. “You’re a better cheater.”

He was out of the room before Drake could muster a reply.

“I didn’t cheat,” he said to me, as he rose from his chair and straightened his suit. “He just can’t handle that I’m better then him.”

I didn’t even want to get into this argument. “Come on… Dinner is ready.”

Ma-rye-a let Callen get out of hearing range before she spoke. “He’s just as good a pilot as Drake.”

“Yeah… Right…” Sam replied.

When had my crew become a cheering section for these youngsters?

“He is quite talented,” Ma-rye-a chimed in. “I think he could have won if not for Drake’s intervention.”

“Bull,” Sam huffed in an irritated tone.

“That’s enough!” I was through with listening to them bicker like school children. “I don’t want you taking sides. Sam… give Ma-rye-a and me a little privacy please.”

“Aye, Captain.” I heard the telltale click of the security mode being put in place when Sam left the conversation.

“Now, my friend, what has gotten into you?” I asked Ma-rye-a.

“Nothing. You asked me to be Callen’s buddy. I have. It is the duty of a buddy to support their friend in their challenging times.”

She had me there. I had asked her to help out Callen.

“You’re right and I appreciate your taking your duty seriously. Let’s just see if we can make it a little less confrontational.”

“My calculations showed that if he won against Drake it would boost his spirits.”

“You’re probably right.” I had to admit, I would have liked to see Drake put in his place.

*****

After dinner, which was used as a forum to relive the game they had just played, the kids all went their separate ways. I would have gone to the vid room if I had the place to myself. I could have used a C-Chair and a good book at this point. Instead, since the vid room was most likely being used, I went to my room to read for a bit before seeing that everyone was settled in for the night.

When Ma-rye-a dimmed the lights, I decided to do my walk-about and see that everyone was tucked in. I found Callen on the bridge in my pilot’s chair.

“Evening,” I said.

He shot out of the chair like a Kamos 4 Tunnel Rat with a Max Cat on its tail.

“Sorry, Captain.”

He actually blushed.

“What’s up?” I took my seat and he eased down into the co-pilot’s seat.

Horus spoke up. “We were just playing chess.”

“Callen was giving him a challenge,” Ma-rye-a chimed in.

“That’s good.” I leaned back. “Don’t let me interrupt. Horus probably appreciates someone who can give him a run for his money. I’ve never been very good.”

“Callen has a very analytical mind.” Ma-rye-a was being very complimentary. She had her ‘buddy’ hat on again, or was it ‘still?’

“Your dad teach you how to play?” I asked.

“No…” The holographic board appeared at the arm of Callen’s chair. “Father doesn’t have time for games. Not even strategic games. My friend Antons taught me.”

“We met a the launch party. How is he doing? I assume you have sent him some sub-space messages.”

I knew he had, but it was not for me to pry. I had Ma-rye-a look into the laws of Norvus 3. There were some antiquated rules and regs about same sex couples. It was a religion based notion.

In the early days of colonization, and still practiced on a limited scale to this day, humans settled new planets based on similar religions and languages. It was the belief of some that conflict arose because of different religions, cultures and languages. They felt that if you had the same mind set on a planet there would be less violence and discontent. It worked in some instances, not in others. Humans were basically confrontational beings.

“He’s doing okay. Queen c2, level 3.” The chess piece on the board moved per Callen’s instructions. “He should have been on this flight.”

“Really?” I could see Callen was boxing Horus’ king in.

Horus made his move.

“Yes, he was accepted to the Academy also, but his parents chose not to send him. Rook a7, level 3, checkmate.”

The game vanished from the arm and either Horus or Ma-rye-a, most likely Ma-rye-a, sent up little miniature fireworks above the arm.

“Do you think he will come next term?” It seemed a shame if Antons had been accepted that he didn’t attend. The Academy didn’t accept just anyone. The tuition was free with enlisting for four years as the only requirement, but if a person made it through the rigorous training of the Academy, they usually became a ‘lifer’ in the Galactic Forces.

“I doubt it.” Callen swept the hair out of his eyes. “His parents have plans for him in the family business.”

I might have wondered why Antons bothered to apply to the Academy if his parents were so set on keeping him planet bound, but then the answer was sitting right beside me. He wanted to be with Callen.

“That’s too bad. Maybe they will change their minds.” Although I doubted that. They probably saw this as a way to keep their son from his ‘slick’ ways.

Callen abruptly stood up. “I think I will go to my room now.” He bowed. “Good night, Captain.”

I nodded my approval. “Good night, Callen.”

Cover Art by Sherry D. Ramsey for "Old Friends/New Enemies"
Vol. 3 of the Star Traveler Series by Theresa Snyder

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